In studio today we’ve got a rad Ernie Ball Music Man James Valentine Signature Guitar. Valentine is the guitarist for “Maroon 5,” a very eclectically voiced band, with tracks ranging in genre from R&B, Pop, to Rock. Valentine in conjunction with Ernie Ball has created one of the best signature guitars I’ve ever had the chance to play; let’s get into it.
The James Valentine signature is strangely stunning. “Strange” because of its pure simplicity of design. A wedge-shaped ash slab body, with a oil-and-wax rubbed and roasted maple neck are the first features I took in as I grabbed this guitar off the rack. Playing the “Transparent Maroon” model allows just a touch of grain to bleed through the finish, it looks great and subtle. After holding the guitar for a moment, the oversized “4-over-2” headstock caught my eye, and feels really good in the hand and the addition of locking Schaller tuners hints at the “pro” aspect of this instrument.
Ernie Ball is in the business of making “pro level” guitars and this is certainly one of those. From the “Vintage/modern” hardtail bridge, to the volume and tone controls (both with push-push) and a 3-way pickup switch, the Valentine can be an easy studio shredder and solid workhorse for almost any type of guitarist.
Obviously the first impression of the oil-and-wax rubbed, roasted maple neck was spectacular. A fast, almost “shredder” quality to it makes even the most demanding arrangements play out with a subtle ease I’m used to getting on high-end guitars; no surprises here.
The body is bigger than most solid bodies I’m use to, but has a decent form factor that really doesn’t compromise the “feel” between comfort and keeping an intact ash slab, for tonal reasons.
This guitar feels like I’m playing a Les Paul with a thinner neck. With a 10″ neck radius, it feels a lot like my native telecasters do, which I like but could be a negative in some hands.
Though this guitar is visually appealing, it’s under the hood where this it really shines. James Valentine mentions with this guitar he wanted to combine the tones of a Gibson 335 and a Fender Telecaster in one, basically one he could play throughout an entire “Maroon 5” set, all types of genre shifts, and tone changes in a one hour period without switching to a new guitar.
When plugging this guitar into a Fender Vibrolux Reverb and getting just a touch of overdrive, I’m hearing the 335 tone right away. Deep driving chords and focused leads, thick tones akin to tons of Gibsons. When I push in the tone knob it coil splits the Music Man custom pickup (which has staggered pole pieces) and a familiar “tele-twang” erupts from the Vibrolux full of screeching highs, and punchy mids.
After noodling around on a relatively clean tone I push in the volume knob to unleash a 20db boost and a crunchy breakup in the Vibrolux. Pairing these with the slab ash body adds some great sustain and some brightness with the roasted maple neck.
This guitar is definitely receiving a nomination for being a player’s “forever guitar.” Being as versatile as it is, coupled with the vintage looks and outstanding feel the Valentine signature can be a good option in both the studio, with its tone options and out on the road, with its high build quality and ease of use. Without a doubt this instrument is a “pro-player” level guitar, but has the options and feel to be a great asset in the hobbyist or collector’s repertoire.